A PETITION opposing plans for a new sports village - which could herald the return of Sale Sharks to its hometown - has topped 3.100 signatures.

Supporters of the ambitious project, for playing fields on the edge of Sale, say the initiative may signal the relocation of the Sharks from their current home in Salford.

But people living close to Crossford Bridge insist the scheme will devastate wildlife and bring on traffic headaches for the surrounding community.

Neighbour Catherine Perrin, who launched a petition on the change.org website, said: "The negative impact of these plans would be immense, not only to the people who use it but to the wildlife, environment and surrounding area.

"Generations of my family and I have grown up and lived in the Crossford Bridge area and it would be nothing short of heartbreaking to see such a place disappear.

"Hundreds of football players of all ages from Sale United use the pitches and there would not be space to share. Sale Harriers running club have been using the space since 1951 with large groups meeting throughout each week.

"Regular cricket matches are held there and the local Springfield Primary School is fortunate enough to use the facilities."

Edouard Whyte, who lives next door to the site, added: “I know that many of us who live next door to Crossford Bridge are devastated by the thought of a huge stadium being built.

“I don’t really see a way that this can be built here without causing noise, gridlock traffic, pollution, influxes of crowds down the streets.

“I personally only moved to the area at the end of last year and had I have known there were plans to build a rugby stadium at the end of the road I would not have gone through with the purchase. We already struggle with parking as it is and our road is for permit holders only.

“We only received a letter informing us of the consultation on the day the Sale Sharks’ media coverage started to appear telling the UK they were ‘coming home’.

“This resulted in a lot of unrest and worry for those of us who live nearby. I know that all of the concerns I have voiced are shared by my neighbours and others living near us. We have rallied together over the past few days but we are all feeling very uneasy about what’s to come. “

Tonight Crossford Futures, the company behind the sports village, issued a statement, with Sale Sharks, Sale Harriers, Sale United and Old Alts FC in mind, in a bid to allay residents' concerns.

The statement read: "We can confirm that all parties have now entered dialogue around the vision for the potential development of Crossford Bridge and intend to hold preliminary discussions as part of a more detailed consultation which will take place in the coming weeks.

“Our shared priority is ensuring that all involved, including the clubs, local residents and the wider community benefit from any proposals for the site.

“We would like to reiterate that no solutions will be put forward in the second phase of consultation in the autumn that do not meet with approval from all of the parties involved, especially Sale United FC, Sale Harriers Manchester and Old Atrinchamians FC.

“Local residents and all the children who enjoy the current facilities will then have an opportunity to provide significant feedback as part of that second phase of consultation.”

Cllr Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford Council and a ward councillor for the area, added: "As council leader I have a responsibility to consider any proposal that could bring investment into the borough.

"In principle the idea of Sale Sharks returning to Sale is attractive, however as is always the case with any such scheme there are a number of concerns that need to be considered and the council is not committed to this project in any way beyond having agreed to the initial consultation.

“The potential investment into community sports will need to be weighed against the concerns I have about the loss of green space and impact on near-neighbours.

He believes the authority has taken a "reasonable approach" but stressed that the plans "can only proceed if it is supported by the community, and if the needs of the clubs currently using the site can be met moving forward".

The first phase of a two-stage consultation on the matter is due to start from Monday and can be accessed onlone at https://www.crossfordbridge.co.uk/

The change.org petition is at https://www.change.org/p/crossford-bridge-playing-fields-under-threat.